Wednesday, March 30, 2016

School in the Future

N has been cruising along with his schooling and doing very well. Despite his lack of enthusiasm for certain general academic subjects, he works hard and does a very good job in these subjects, including writing, which he claims to dislike. We don't push him too hard but have certain reasonable expectations, and again, he does a nice job of it. He's even diligent to the point that he'll "want" to do the work even if we give him a break. I'd like to think that he wants to because he finds it a gratifying pursuit rather than just a duty. Whatever be the case, it would be nice to expand his horizons a little and not only expose him to a broader range of experiences, but maybe get him into more social situations, as well.

With this in mind, we approached our local school and made some inquiries. One of the counselors, GM, who is also a good friend, told us of the options while subtly alluding to the fact that the opportunities were greater at the big city school. I think he got the blessing of the local principal to spell it out this way, so he wasn't acting in a backhanded way. What we were told is that there were some options locally, but if we really wanted some interesting and diverse opportunities, than the big city school was the way to go. We figured as much, but it's good to hear it from the source.

I contacted the big city school and as it turns out, we know several of the staff. In fact, we know the assistant principal, who was a good source of information and guidance, and we found out that the school has some pretty amazing opportunities as far as classes go, particularly in our areas of interest, which are computers and elective courses. We can do the general education courses on our own. We made an appointment and met with the principal and course overseer and took N over to meet with them.

I've been to the school countless times because it's a poster boy stop, but I'd never really ventured too far into the building. This time around we got the full tour, and it was pretty impressive. I won't bore you with the details, but the variety of classes was pretty extensive, including stuff that really piqued N's interest, including woodworking, 3-D modeling, and various computer programming classes. They even have some cool music options that he might be interested in... in my dreams. What's interesting about the school is that at the kids have the option to choose their classes and create their schedules. I don't really remember this to be the case when I was that age, way back in the dark ages. What's also really cool is that there are a number of clubs that he can take part in, including mountain biking and model airplane making. The full course catalog will come out later this spring, so we'll have a better sense of what he can take.

Since we're out of towners and have our own school which we are choosing to "not choose," we will have to pay the big city school tuition, which will be pro-rated based on the number of classes he takes. No free rides in the big city, but sometimes you have to pay a little money for the right experience. Plus, he'll be with kids his own age in a setting where they share common interests, i.e., boys and girls checking each other out. The timing is good, as well, because in his grade a whole wave of kids will be coming in who will, like him, be new to the school.

I think it's all good, so we'll wait and see what's being offered and do whatever it takes to make it work. Hopefully lots of people will be getting married this summer so that there will be lots of catering gigs. We shall see.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Marvin for the pic.

Back to Ultimate

The weather hasn't made up its mind yet, but with no snow on the ground, that can only mean one thing - it's time for ultimate frisbee. A week back a notice went up on the message board that people were interested in playing, and with the longer days, the time was ripe to get back outside. Several people replied and said they'd be there, and the night before N was at the town dance and was told to get out there to play, so we went over.

The weather was still cold but tolerable, and the ground is still a bit soft, but nothing a bunch of UF fanatics can't handle. Besides, the sun was out, and I personally think it's easier to play in cooler weather as opposed to searing heat. About 15 people showed up, which is a good number, though many of us were rusty, and yours truly was achy and out of shape, but we had a good time. It was mostly high school kids so the level of play was high, at least for an old man like myself.

Afterward we went home for supper and I was feeling pretty beat. Nothing like a game of UF with a group of high school kids to remind you of how old and brittle you are. This is especially true the next day, but what are you doing to do?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to albert.trank for the pic.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Making Peace with History

When I was growing up, one of my least favorite subjects was without question history. Talk about boring and miserable. When you're a kid, you just have no context to really grasp and appreciate what you're being taught. With the exception of a few genuine history buffs, I think this is still the case today. Kids are still forced to learn about various historical events and they really have no idea what they're learning or for that matter, why.

As you can imagine, this is a problem with homeschooling, because for the most part, our kids are not that interested in history, and who can blame them? Ironically, now that I'm an old man, I actually find it all very interesting, and even look forward to studying history with the kids. I don't think my enthusiasm is infectious, but it does motivate me to find a way to make it more interesting for them. For N, this may be impossible, but I have to give it a try. And since we homeschool, we can design a course plan that fits our interests and needs.

We have been using a combination of books, videos, and online courses, and it's been working out fairly well, albeit a bit slow. Then again, what's the rush? For A the focus is on civil rights but within the context of important historical events, and this is where we can make it interesting. She is doing an independent project at school that pertains to civil rights, so we decided to make that the focus of her history lesson. This kind of ties her whole year together. We begin with the Civil War, which we had studied ad nausum and are pretty much done with, then look at WWI and head into Women's Suffrage and the Civil Rights Movement. For N, we are looking at the French Revolution, which we will study as a precursor to the Industrial Revolution, which I think he'll find interesting... I sure do.

My hopes are that by tying different subjects together, it will make it more interesting and give a broader context to what they are learning rather than just memorizing facts. For all it's worth, I find it much more interesting and if you can believe it, am actually enjoying learning about some of these things, especially the French Revolution. Now that I'm old and creaky, I really like history.

We'll see how this goes. For A, she really just needs a year of history/civics for future scholastic endeavors, though it may spark an interest that she might pursue at a later date. For N, it's just about surviving and minimizing the amount of boredom that is inherent in learning history. I can't say a blame him.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ryan Fellhauer for the pic.

Happy Easter

I was thinking that the kids were too old to do the traditional Easter Egg Hunt, but it turns out that N was still keen on the idea, and since he was doing it, A said she'd go along for good measure. It's actually become a running joke in our house and perhaps even a family tradition that I do a terrible job of hiding the eggs. I figured that if you make it too hard, the kids won't find them, but clearly I don't give them enough credit. So, each year I put some easy ones out just to fuel the tradition, but also make it a little more challenging each time. It makes it a little more fun and interesting, and I'm all for that.

This year there was an added complication of my working Sunday brunch at the Inn. As I've mentioned, things are slow and work hasn't been that readily available, so when this opportunity came up I talked it over with mom and decided it would be okay. I put the eggs out in the yard in the early AM and headed off for work. The plan was for the kids to hunt for eggs, hang out and relax, and then make Easter bread. I was slated to work until the early afternoon.

Work was fine, the Inn was packed and sold out but the crowd was manageable. I think the brunch crowd is more relaxed and congenial, and the day was very pleasant. I didn't get to gather leftover goodies because I wasn't actually working with the food, and we aren't supposed to imbibe in the vittles until all the guests have finished and departed. My shift ended while there were still guests dining, and while I could have hung out and waited for everyone to leave, I wanted to get home and hang with the family.

When I did get home, mom and A had left for rehearsal, which I thought was strange because it was Easter. I was also disappointed because I figured I'd missed out on the whole day with the family and wanted to have Easter supper together. Well, as it turns out, there wasn't rehearsal after all. The girls came home early and we were able to have a nice Easter supper together. I love when that happens.

It was a nice day. I got to get some employment in (at the Inn), the kids got lots of Easter chocolate, and we got to dine together as a family. My kind of Easter.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to s_bistono for the pic.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Making it Happen

A auditioned for a part in a regional play and I think she was on the short list, which she was excited about. The play is a musical and her role is not an acting part but as a member of the backup band. I.e., I don't think she has any speaking lines but she will be on stage playing her guitar, which suits her just fine, though I think A is a really good actor, and I'm not alone in this assessment. This may be something she could pursue as well, but more on that later.

The big caveat to being in the play is that it's a summer learning intensive, which is akin to a drama/theater class or camp. They train the kids in various aspects of the theater, and the production company, Northern Stage, is first rate. They don't mess around and are the real deal in terms of teaching acting and stage production. We know numerous kids who do it, and A and N were both involved years back when the program was run by another teacher. Anyway, as I mentioned, because it's a summer intensive, it costs money. After ruminating over it and factoring in band costs and potential lessons, not to mention summer camps and other extracurricular activities for both kids, we concluded that maybe it wasn't the best time to do this. It doesn't help that my work has slowed to a trickle. A was disappointed but she understood, she always does.

After we informed them that A was not going to be able to participate, K&T said that maybe something could be worked out and they approached Northern Stage about trying to work something out, which I thought was incredibly thoughtful and kind of them. I even thought I would volunteer some of my time to make this work, but let's take this one step at a time. I'm not sure what will come of this but I'm grateful to K&T and Northern Stage for even considering it. Once again, we'll see where this one goes, but at least there's a ray of hope. Good enough for me.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Lynne's Images for the pic.

Slow to a Trickle

The busy season at the Inn is long over so as expected, work has slowed to a trickle. It has actually been really nice to be able to spend time at home with my family, especially with our busy and crazy lives, a SAHD really needs a break. On the other hand, I'm not pulling in the big bucks to support our fabulously luxurious lifestyles, so we'll have to scale back on the champagne and caviar. I do enjoy sitting down with mom and the kids to have supper, especially after a long day, and every day seems like a long day.

There is some work this coming weekend, and once April passes things will start to cook, literally and figuratively. I also got the tentative schedule for my other catering gig and it's looking pretty full. We just have to lay low through the lull.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Tim Wilcox for the pic.

Falling Apart

As if I needed another excuse to whine, I went out and managed to hurt my lower back, again. What's a total drag about it is that it's not as if I was out tossing hay bails around or lifting trees. I did it by taking a walk, of all things. Granted, it was a pretty rigorous walk, but if I can't even go for a walk and suffer from it, what the heck can I do? It's actually a walk that mom likes to take and it's pretty vigorous as far as walks go, but again, it's still a walk. The kids often go with her and it goes for about 4 miles, though only about 5% of it is flat. The rest involves very steep hills, and it's a good workout.

The kids were inspired to talk said walk and I decided to go with them, and it was interesting, to say the least. First off, I had to exert my tired-old self to keep up with the kids, they just take off and walk at a brisk pace. Secondly, I had to answer nature's call at some point and then had to run to catch up with them. And finally, the big downhill section can rock your body, especially if you're running down it to catch up with young people. That's exactly where I think I hurt my back, because let's face it, I just can't shake it like I used to.

I managed to keep up with the kids and maintain some semblance of male pride, but in the end, I should have just met them at home and taken it easy. Now I have to suffer for my pride, but maybe that's a fitting price to pay for my machismo. As my Mentor would say, time to see the chiropractor, though from my years of experience with back pain, I don't think this will be a long term thing... I hope.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to supulido62 for the pic.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Against All Odds

This is a little crazy but in a really good way, but mom entered a music video contest several weeks back and won first prize in her division. How cool is that? What makes it all the more rewarding (yet astounding) is that she finished in while in the throes of the worst flu of her life and during the coldest days of the season. I exaggerate not. It was a really mild winter this year but on the days that we filmed her video the temps dropped, for the first time, well below zero. More like 10-20 below. It was freezing, and we had to brave the bitter cold to film the video outside.

If that wasn't bad enough, two weeks before the deadline, when the last of the filming and all of the editing needed to be done, mom managed to get herself out of bed, work the camera and then edit the film. The kids helped out enormously, and I held down the fort with the domestic duties. At some point, feeling as awful as she did, I think she just wanted to finish it and be done with it, and who can blame her? She submitted it at the deadline and we all moved on with our lives, though it's worth noting that mom never does things halfway. Even when in the throes of a horrible illness, she always does a stand-up job. It's just the way she is.

They announced the winners at CATV in a big ceremony, but we couldn't make it. Mom still wasn't feeling 100%, and we all had other things to deal with, mainly hockey and work. She got an email a few days later informing her that she'd won first place. It was a nice event amongst the chaos that's been our lives, and believe me, our lives are sheer chaos.

I was incredibly stoked for her. The reality is, she did a great job. I watched the video and was very impressed with the creative vision and editing. I'm also proud of her for finishing what she started when it would have been completely reasonable and understandable to throw in the towel and give in to illness. Not for our mom.

Another reason why we love her so much. Thanks for reading, and thanks to grnybeanie for the pic.

St. Patrick's Day, After All

Several days after the fact, I hope that everyone had a nice St. Patrick's Day. We engorged ourselves on corned beef and cabbage, and interestingly enough, it almost didn't happen. Since we're trying to eat healthier, something that I'm on board with, one of the things that we're trying to eat less of are processed meats. That includes ham, cold cuts, and various other meats that contain that lovely chemical, sodium nitrate. Sodium nitrite is often included in the equation, but for simplicity, I'll just refer to them as nitrates. Now people have been eating nitrates for years and I'm sure many of them will say that it hasn't affected them, but you also can't deny that the world has a whole slew of health problems that weren't as common a generation or two ago.

Whatever be the case, I'm not a fan of nitrates, and will go out of my way to buy nitrate free ham or bacon. Bear in mind, it tastes just as good. The synthetic nitrates don't affect the flavor, they serve an aesthetic purpose by keeping the meat red after it's been cooked, which is rather silly when you get down to it. Unfortunately, corned beef is chock full of nitrates. It's something about boiled meat, or I guess smoked meat, as well.

As always I've carried on more than I should have and veered off course, but suffice it to say that because corned beef is as it is, I figured we were going to break with tradition and skip the St. Patty's day feast. Kind of a bummer, but that's life, right? Well, as it happened, mom wanted to have the meal, despite the unhealthy aspects of it. She understands just as much as the next person that it's all about moderation, and a little corned beef once a year isn't the end of the world.

There are, however, nitrate free options for corned beef, as well. The best way would be to buy a brisket and brine it yourself. I tried to pursue this option but it's not always easy to find a brisket, or at least one that is reasonably priced at this time of year. A couple of friends raise beef and said they could get me a brisket but it never materialized. With all this in mind, I figured we would just go without corned beef this year.

That is until mom asked if we were going to have it and that she thought it was a nice family tradition. Say no more. I went right out to the Coop and got some of their "gray" corned beef, which is nitrate free. The reason they call it gray is because with sodium nitrate/nitrite, the meat doesn't stay as bright red as what we're all used to. That's fine with me, the taste is exactly the same, we love it, and I feel better about not eating a big piece of meat filled with nitrates. I realize I'm not like most people, but what else is new?

In the end, we had a nice St. Patty's Day. I got the corned beef going in early in the AM in the Crockpot, and then we feasted after hockey practice, thus keeping the family tradition alive. Plus, we have leftovers so we can make corned beef hash. I love when that happens.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ree Drummond for the pic.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Knee Deep in Mud

Since winter was disappointing I figured we'd be spared the misery of a bad mud season, if one at all. After all, there's no snow to speak of, but I guess when you live in New England, there's always snow somewhere. A day or two back we had this substantial warm spell where the temps were in the high 50s, and as a consequence, we got mud. Lots of mud. I'm guessing the ground is still frozen and the water has nowhere to go, though the trees are budding and it's really just a matter of time before the leaves pop out. I know sugaring is going on with abandon.

Since we live on a dirt road, we get the full effect of mud season. Adding to this fact is our long dirt driveway as well as all the water that flows off the road into it. There are two approaches to our house on the road, a long hill and a short flat section. The long hill is the most convenient because it leads directly to the center of town and then the highway, but for whatever reason it gets really hit with the mud. The hill doesn't help, and when the mud is really bad, it's really not drive-able. You can hear cars struggling to get up it during mud season.

The short section is much easier but less convenient. You can't check the mail, and you have to take a half-mile detour to get to the town center or highway. However, because it's shorter, you have much less mud to deal with. It gets bad but somehow being short and flat makes it more doable.

Whatever be the case, the mud a few days back was surprisingly bad. It's a bummer when the mud gets caked into your wheel and affects the alignment, especially when you're making a long trip up to Maine. I'm hoping this won't last long but like all things in life, only time will tell.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Matt Jorgensen for the pic.

Paying the Price

I've been helping out with hockey all season but you begin to realize that coaching kids on the ice is not necessarily that active or aerobic of an activity. Sure, it beats sitting on the couch and eating Twinkies all day, but I don't think I work up too much of a sweat, and this came to light the other day when we did endurance training. I decided to join in the fun when we made the kids to sprints, and afterward I felt like I was either going to throw up or pass out, or both. I couldn't believe it. I had to sit down or else mortify my son by losing my lunch on the ice. Afterward I realized what poor shape I'm in.

With that in mind, this past weekend I decided to get out a little more and maybe even get my heart rate going. Encouraged by the warm weather, which for the record is now gone, I jumped in with two feet and am now paying the price. What else is new? In the morning I wanted to get a paper and decided to ride my bike to the store, which is about 2 miles away. 2 miles on a bike is no big deal, but there is a massive hill involved, and I was wheezing all the way home. Then I did some strengthening exercises, and that afternoon we went out to field and played ultimate frisbee.

By the end of the day, I knew I'd overdone it because my every one of my joints was letting me know they weren't happy. I even rekindled old injuries that I'd forgotten about, and probably created new ones. I was pretty miserable, and of course I couldn't pass up the opportunity to let my family know all about it. Interestingly, that evening after supper, I was feeling pretty incapacitated and took my usual after-dinner nap, and when I woke up, a lot of my pain had subsided. Boy was I stoked. It's amazing what a little rest will do for you.

Of course, the next day my muscles were screaming, and my joints still aren't happy, even two days after the fact. Then again, that's how it always goes: I have to endure a little pain to get back in shape. People, mom included, advise me to take it slowly, but somehow I never really know how to do that. Oh well, you reap what you sow, right?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to tpholland for the pic.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Dancing Without Mom or Dad

Since we exited our hockey tournament early, we came home a night early and I was pretty stoked about that. There's something great about sleeping in your own bed in your own home, with your own family. You just can't beat it. We were also exhausted because that morning we had a 7:00AM game, which meant getting up around 5:30AM and playing hockey all day. I didn't even play and I was gassed, never mind N having played two intense games.

Either way, we got home early and A was heading off to the big town dance with her buddies. It was fairly early in the evening and we asked N if he wanted to go, as well, figuring he'd say no after a long and tiring weekend. Plus, it was a last minute thing. Well, I was pleasantly surprised when he said he did want to go, though that set my neurotic gears in motion - did he want me to go and keep him company? Was okay going alone? Should we tell the girls to wait for him? I even went as far as to say that I'd hide out in the basement, where the food was, while he was upstairs on the dance floor.

I'm pleased to say that he not only was comfortable going in alone, but that he didn't really want me there in any capacity. Wow, our boy is growing up. I know from my own POV it ain't easy going to a dance, but to go in alone is even tougher. Granted, his sister and his friends were going to show up within minutes, and he would know plenty of people, but even still, big social situations are not always so easy to deal with, especially when there are hot girls all around wanting to dance with you.

So he put a nice shirt on (he looked really handsome) and I took him over. We knew the women at the door and they said his sister and friends had not arrived yet, so I asked N what he wanted to do, and he promptly informed me that he would go inside and I could leave. How cool is that? Of course I couldn't leave it at that and waited outsid to see his sister, who arrived within 5 minutes. I asked her to just keep an eye on him and she informed me that I was being crazy and neurotic and that N was perfectly capable of taking care of himself. Try explaining that to a neurotic dad with OCD.

The plan was for them to call us when they were ready to come home, and I told N that if at any point he was bored or uncomfortable to call us and we'd come and get him. Needless to say, he never called, and they stayed until the last song, which I took to mean they had fun. They called late in the evening and mom went to pick them up. When they got home they raved about what a great time they had. I knew A would have fun, she always does wherever she goes, but with N I'm not always so sure. As he was getting ready for bed I asked him and he said he had a great time. When I asked if there were a lot of hot girls there, I got reprimanded by mom so I never got an answer.

Whatever be the case, I'm proud of him for going for it and getting out of the house. Plus, I can only assume that since he didn't want to come home early he was doing something fun, with lots of other kids, including cute girls his age. What more can you ask for?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to My Name for the pic.

Good Vibes from Residence Inn

I have to say that for the past two hockey trips we've made, we've had good experiences with the Residence Inn, especially this past weekend in Auburn. We reserved a room for two nights and even though I was bummed about spending the money getting a hotel and eating out, N had a lot of fun, and it's always nice being around hockey families. You have a really strong common bond. It didn't help that we've been traveling a fair amount for hockey but what are you going to do?

Anyway, the complication and sort-of bummer about this weekend was that it was highly possible that we weren't going to play on Sunday, but we couldn't know for sure. If we played, we would need a hotel for Saturday night, but if we didn't, a Saturday night stay would be frivolous. We wouldn't really know until Saturday afternoon, and by that time it would be a challenge to get a room at the last minute. The simplest and most straightforward way was to reserve the room for two nights and just suck it up if we didn't play on Sunday.

Sure enough, after Saturday's AM game (7:00AM, no less), which we lost, combined with Friday's loss, it was clear that we were not playing on Sunday. We had one more game Saturday afternoon and then we were done with hockey for that weekend. I figured we would play the game, stay in the hotel where N could swim and we would watch TV and eat junk food, and then head home Sunday morning. I was, however, very pleasantly surprised to hear from a few of the other parents that they were leaving Saturday afternoon, and that the hotel was amenable to checking out early. Talk about stoked!

I went to the front desk and they said yes, we could cancel Saturday night and to just let them know ASAP. I let her know right then and there. I'm thinking N was a little disappointed that he wasn't going to be able to swim and hang out with his buddies, but truth be told, most of his teammates were leaving that day, anyway. I think maybe LR was staying, and N really likes hanging with him, but mean old dad had to override the plan and get home. It was still early so we had plenty of time to pack up and clean the room, which I did while N hung out with his friends. We loaded up the car, checked out, and headed to the rink. The plan was to play the game, get some lunch, and then hit the road. It isn't easy doing a long drive when you've been up since 5:30AM, but I was eager to get home, so my pining for my family sustained me. We were able to save some money, the drive home wasn't so bad, and we got home at a reasonable time. N was even able to go to the town dance, thanks in no small part to the good vibes and flexibility of the Residence Inn.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks for for the pic, and thanks to Remington Marriott for the pic.

The Long Way Home

We traveled up to the beautiful state of Maine for a hockey tournament this weekend and I have to confess that as much as I like it up there, I was not looking forward to the drive. As I mentioned we lost in the state championship, the winner of which goes on to the regional finals and then to the nationals. Since we lost I figured we were done, but for some reason we were invited to play in the sectionals, which is a modified version of the regionals. I'm guessing the second place AA teams (or Tier II if you live elsewhere) all go to sectionals while the first place teams go to regionals. Whatever be the case, we've been driving a lot, and I wasn't looking forward to an even longer drive. Neither was N, and there was also the issue of eating bad, albeit tasty, food and dropping the big bucks on a hotel.

The drive was slated to be around 3.5 hours and we had a few options to get there. The quickest was interestingly not the shortest distance - it entailed taking the highway south toward Boston and heading east to Portsmouth. From there you head north again along the coast. I noticed that an alternative was to head north from here and then get off the highway and drive east through the White Mountains. It was in fact a shorter distance, but since you can't drive as fast as you can on the highway, it took more time, though not much; according to Google Maps, about 15 minutes more. After thinking it over I decided to take the northern route and N was on board with me, not that he had much choice.

We picked up some lunch at Five Guys and headed north/west, and in the end, the drive wasn't bad at all. Dare I say it was enjoyable. I'll take a moderately fast drive along scenic roads any day over a faster drive along a monotonous highway, especially for long periods of time. The long route was even sort of fun because we had to navigate our way along smaller roads and through little New England towns. N is a good navigator, and the breaks in the drive helped to pass the time away. Plus, the scenery was beautiful, and you always come across some interesting sites when you travel the small country roads.

We arrived at the hotel with about an hour to spare, and people were a little surprised but inspired by our choice of routes. I wouldn't have done it any other way. We backtracked to get home and once again, it was the way to go. It made a 3.5 hour drive bearable, and if anything, enjoyable.

We exited the tournament early so that meant getting home early, and even though losing is a bummer, it sure felt good to get home.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Tobi Gaulke for the pic.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Going Further North

Despite the hugely disappointing loss at N's championship game, somehow his team has qualified for a regional tournament. I thought you had to win the state championship to advance to the regional tournament, but that just goes to show you what I know. To be clear, we are actually playing in the sectional tournament, not the regional tournament. I think the difference is the winners of the states goes to the regionals, the loser goes to the sectionals. I was told that the winner of the regionals goes on to the nationals while the winner of the sectionals goes home.

Whatever be the case, we are heading up north to Auburn, Maine, which I didn't even know existed until a few days ago, and I'm not sure what to really make of all of it. I'm not really sure who we are playing... I mean I know their names, but we've never really had much experience, if any, playing them. In other words, I really don't know what to expect. One of our coaches TM said he did some scouting and one of the programs has 6 (that's right, 6) peewee teams. That's hard to fathom, but they are sending their 3rd team to play us.

I have to confess that I'm a little fried on hockey right now. That last run for the state championship took it all out of me, but what a great run it was. Despite my feelings of self-pity, I have to say the kids had a great season and have every reason to be proud of themselves. I know I am. That doesn't mean, however, that I'm that enthused about driving up to Maine. I could muster a lot more excitement if it wasn't so far away. Factor in the driving, hotel, meals, and it adds up to a pretty pricey weekend. That doesn't even factor in how the team will do.

To add to the drama, we're not even sure if we'll qualify to play on Sunday, but we have to reserve a room for Saturday night. There's just no easy way around this. In the end, if we don't make it to Sunday's playoffs, we will probably just stay the night in the hotel and relax and have fun. If we do qualify, then we'll be in good shape. How's that for logic?

Until then next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Wendell for the pic.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Just Doing It

We had a rough weekend last week mainly because it entailed so much driving, and as I mentioned, some of it was of my own doing. I encouraged N to try out for a spring hockey program that is sort of a select team, though not as hardcore as some of the programs out there. Several of his teammates did it last year and I thought he should at the very least give it a try. I made it clear that it didn't matter if he even wanted to play in the games, or for that matter, make the team. I really just wanted him to relax, have some fun, and give it a try. It's not easy to put yourself out there and face potential rejection, but there's value to at least trying.

In years past I tried to encourage N to try out for assorted select teams because I felt like he was good enough and I think it would have been good for him to get more practice and experience under his belt. Mind you, I wasn't thinking elite AAA teams, but more along the lines of accomplished players learning the game and getting more time on the ice. This would help him develop as a player and have fun doing what he loves - playing hockey.

Well, whenever I tried to broach the subject, he always seemed to balk. I wasn't about to force the issue because this is something he's got to want to do, but needless to say the OCD/neurotic side of me was screaming on the inside, "Don't you want to get more ice time and practice?" In retrospect, I realize how ridiculous I was being, but hockey has a way of doing it to you. That and spending too much time with Mr. Hockey.

Either way, another reason that I thought it might not be a bad idea to try out for a select team or two was that there are life lessons in putting yourself out there and taking chances, not to mention falling short and failing. Now nobody wants to fail, and nobody wants their kid to fail, but let's be realistic - we fail at more things in life than we succeed. A is good about this, she has tried out for many things, some have worked out, some have not, but it never seems to discourage her from trying. I really admire that. While I can't say with certainty why exactly N doesn't want to try out for these things, the one thing I don't want to happen is for him to avoid trying because he's afraid of failing or not making the squad. I understand why he might feel this way, if he feels this way, but that's no way to go through life, especially for something that is not life or death, and especially for something that you're reasonably good at.

N is good at a lot of things, but he's a jock at heart. He hasn't been tested in the context of competing with his peers with too many things. It just hasn't come up, though it will as he gets older. It's important to at least try and if you make it, great, but if you don't, there are character lessons that will help you cope with the next big adventure. I wasn't sure how to broach the subject with him other than being forthright, so I just spelled it out to him. I told him it doesn't matter if he ever plays a game with these guys or if he even makes the team. What's important is that you don't avoid it because you're worried you won't make it and thus never try.

I'm being way too prolix so I'll bring this to an end. In the end he agreed to try out for the team. It was all the way up in Burlington, early in the AM, which displeased him greatly, but he went along with it. Originally I didn't want to watch him to make him self-conscious. Plus, I was feeling a bit neurotic about the whole thing, but I ended up lacing up my skates and actually helped out with the tryout. Can you believe that? Afterward we had double cheeseburgers and he got a chocolate milkshake for his suffering, and he even said that he had fun. It helped that some of his buddies were there with him. Since I ended up on the ice, I basically watched the entire tryout and truth be told, I thought he looked pretty good out there.

I'll leave it at that. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mercyhurst ACHA Hockey for the pic.

Ready For Spring

I'm usually one of the oddball outliers who is bummed when the snow begins to melt, but this year I'm ready for the arrival of spring. It's just been such disappointing winter and I feel like it's time to move on with our lives. We didn't really get any snow all winter, so at this point, let's just bring on the warm weather. There were calls for some snow last week in the forecast and in atypical fashion I actually felt my heart sink. The big snow storm never really materialized and I breathed a big sigh of relief. Boy, am I becoming cynical about winter? Not a good way to be when you live in New England.

Either way, the days are definitely getting longer and warmer, so there is light at the end of the tunnel. Despite the milder winter, we still managed to burn through a fair amount of wood, and it's still cool enough to need some heat, but nothing like last year.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Cosmopolit@n for the pic.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Feeling Sorry For Myself

This is a bit silly and I'm somewhat embarrassed by my self-absorbed behavior, but I've been sort of depressed this weekend stemming from, of all things, a hockey game. Not just any hockey game, mind you, but he state AA championship. N's team lost, but they had the game in hand and really should have won and let it slip away, which makes it a little harder to swallow in the end. They played an amazing game and while they deserved the championship, they still get all the credit in the world for playing their hearts out and showing everyone what they are made of.

Truth be told, everyone questioned whether this was in fact a AA team, myself included. There are something like 16 skaters, some of which are in their first or second year of playing. Our entire program has less than 100 kids, and we were playing a much bigger program, Essex, with over 300 kids. Only coach DW believed and he never wavered, and sure enough, we ended up in the state final. The game was amazing and worthy of a championship. Everyone was a bit nervous in the locker room, and once we hit the ice, Essex jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead. It was very disheartening, and DW called a timeout and calmed everyone down. Then, in the next period, our kids battled back and scored 4 unanswered goals, tying the game. In the third we took the lead, 5-4, and had the game in hand when they pulled the goalie and with less than 25 seconds to go, tied it. Sh*t.

No score in the first overtime, and in the first few minutes of the second OT, their slowest skater somehow weaved through our entire team and scored the game winner. I couldn't believe it. I sat there and watched him skate through five players to the net.

In the end, the kids played amazing hockey and are worthy of the championship, and that should be enough, but somehow I've found a way to feel sorry for myself. It's a bummer so maybe I'm allowed a little self-pity. N was disappointed but I think he's rebounded nicely and is feeling fine. In the end, that's all that matters.

It's also important to keep in mind that it was a youth hockey game and these kids are young, and that losing teaches important lessons in life. Maybe more important ones than winning. Nonetheless, it's tough when the title was so close. Congrats to our boys on a valiant effort, they have every reason to hold their heads up high and I'm really proud of them. Congrats also to Essex on their big win.

Oh well, we simply have to get on with our lives, or as they say in hockey, keep those feet moving.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to 0Four for the pic.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Good Wiper

As I mentioned before, I went out and paid a little more for decent wiper blades, but clearly I did not spend enough, because the blades failed miserably when I needed them most. I splurged a little several months back and got good wiper blades at Advanced Auto, at least for me. Usually I shoot for single digit costs, but this time I spent around $20. Ouch! I figured at least I could see clearly when it counted. This, however, was not the case, which is a double bummer because I spent the dough to get quality and was disappointed.

We were driving home from Stowe in a torrential downpour and the entire time I was cursing my wiper blades. They did a terrible job, and I vowed that I was just going to the Honda dealer and getting factory blades. Normally I avoid buying from the dealer because after-market stuff is a better value, but as is often the case, you get what you pay for. The only time I go to the dealer is to buy replacement oil drain plugs and headlight bulbs. Oddly enough, I've been replacing a lot of light bulbs and the guys at the local Honda dealer are tripping out on seeing me so much.

I went there a couple days back and spent the big bucks on Honda wiper blades, and believe me, they weren't cheap. The big blade ran $35, which would normally give me a heart attack, but I feel that I can trust Honda quality. Heck, they make great cars, it stands to reason that the parts would be good quality, as well. I also learned that in the future, with factory blades, I can replace the rubber section for a measly $8. Enough said, sign me up.

I will say this, the new blades are killer. I could be simply justifying my exorbitant expenditure, but even A and N agree that they do a good job of clearing the window. Suffice it to say that I'm happy with them. Sometimes saving a little money costs you more in the long run.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to half pint for the pic.

Driving Conditions

I was talking to A the other day and we both concurred that for whatever reason, when we are doing long road trips, the weather/road conditions are often less than ideal. Indeed, they are often terrible, and it makes driving not only a challenge, but a total drag, as well. I'm talking stressed and anxious the entire time, with a bad back, to boot. It happened when we drove to and from Quebec, not to mention whenever (at least it seems like it) we are doing long trips to hockey games. We just can't seem to catch a break, but what are you going to do?

This last time was particularly harrowing because not only was it a long haul, but I was stressed and we had time constraints. To add to the drama, my so-called high-end wiper blades were doing a great job of smearing the windows and causing streaks of water to impede my vision. Even A concurred that they were doing a terrible job and that visibility was extremely poor. It didn't help that at times the rain was so hard that even at the highest speed visibility was close to zero.

For all it's worth, I vowed to stop messing around with wipers and just go with good ones, even better than what I had purchased this time around. I am so sick of bad wiper blades, it's really a burden for an old man like myself.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Rennett Stowe for the pic.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

My Tale of Woe

It's been a rough two weeks, to say the least, and I have to say that while it's been a bit of a sob story, some of it has been self-inflicted, to say the least. Nobody's fault but mine, as the saying goes. Mom has been sick with the flu that has lingered and grown into a bit more, so much so that she's been out of commission for a couple of weeks. That has left me to my own devices, and besides the increased workload, I'm without my best friend and partner in crime. You take for granted the little things like companionship and someone to talk to.

To add to the drama, the kids have been incredibly busy, as well. Both of them have hockey, though A's ended last week, which is a bummer, but they should be proud of what a great season they had. Speaking of last week, it was quite the marathon and by the end I was exhausted. It's playoff hockey time so there's no messing around, and thankfully the kids are back on their feet and healthy. N had his state tournament in the even bigger city and I was reluctant to leave a house of malaise, but to A's credit, she did an amazing job of holding down the fort. The plan was to leave Friday early and spend some of the day up there, but since mom wasn't feeling well, we helped out as long as we could at home, filling the wood box, cleaning up, and making several pots of food that they could re-heat for meals, especially chicken noodle soup. I also took mom out to help her work on a project, even though she felt awful. Talk about dedication. Her plan was to do the final editing from bed, which is a testament to today's technology.

We left for Burlington in the evening, which was later than we'd hoped, but we still had plenty of time and it was more important to get our ducks in order at home. The weekend went well, the kids advanced to the championship, and on Sunday afternoon we headed back home. Kudos to A for keeping house and taking care of her mom, who was still not feeling well so we continued to nurse her along. The following week the business continued, with A heading back to school in the AM, as well as early morning hockey practice. She had a dentist appointment that I had forgotten about but somehow managed to remember just as I was picking her up from school. Talk about cutting it close, we even got to the appointment on time. Someone was looking our for us. They both had afternoon/evening practices, so I had to get them to the rink, and thankfully work at the Inn had not really started up yet.

On Wednesday A had a big game but after school she also had to go to the optometrist to get her new contact lens Rx. We were a little pressed for time but things went in a timely manner and we were able to get home, eat some lunch, and then I took her to the arena to catch the bus to the game. I then went home to check on mom and pick up N for his evening practice, then headed up to Stowe. The timing worked out because after N's practice there was a boy's HS hockey game which his entire team was staying to watch. I arranged for him to hang with the hockey families and drove up north. It just so happened that a major storm rolled in that evening, but more on that later.

I got up to Stowe and managed to get lost looking for the rink, arriving just as the first period had started. It was a tough game, they lost, thus ending their season, but again, they have much to be proud of. I gathered up A and we headed home, getting lost once again on the ride home, which is nearly impossible to do, but of course I managed it. I also lost my cool in the car, upsetting A and making her cry, which made me feel terrible, but more on that later. The reason I was stressed was because I had to get back to the home rink to pick up N, even though we had plenty of time and he was having a blast hanging with his buddies at the game. Even still, I managed to find something to stress over. For all it's worth, the ride home was brutal, the rain was coming down in sheets and at times the visibility was close to zero and the roads were icy. Talk about a total bummer. It's hard enough to drive at night, but add the rain and it's a total drag. Plus, the clock was ticking and it's a long drive. We ended up at the HS game with time to spare, so we watched the end of the game and headed home, exhausted but happy to be home.

On Thursday we were hockey free, but A had editing to do at CATV. I dropped her off after school and went home to make lunch and supper. We also had tickets to see the musical Chicago at the Hop that evening, but with mom still sick, the kids invited their buddy NMP. To make it more interesting, A arranged for us to pick her up in the big city and bring her home, then we were all heading back to the big city for the show. I had to modify the dinner plans and make vegetarian options, which actually worked out fine. We went to the show and got back sort of late, around 11:00PM.

Friday AM N had an orthodontists appointment, so I dropped A off at school, came home to get N and take him down south, then went back to the big city to get A after school. We didn't have anything planned that evening so I actually got to rest after supper, but that weekend is when things really started heating up because I went back to work at the Inn. On Saturday N had a game over in Manchester, which meant a 1.5 hour drive there and back, then a 30 minute break before I headed over to the Inn for work. I got home at about midnight and had to wake up around 6:00AM to take N to a hockey clinic up in Burlington on Sunday. Man, I can't even tell you how tired I am of long drives. It's getting crazy.

On Sunday we spent all morning up in the even bigger city, then back home by lunchtime when, you guessed it, I went back to the Inn for work. I did a 1:30-11:30 shift, and then to bed to get up at 6:00AM to take A to school. It never really ends, does it?

Sunday's marathon was due to my encouraging N to try out for a spring hockey team, so the fault is mine. He has been reluctant to do in the past but I wanted him to at least try. Again, more on this later, but suffice it to say that it was fine and he had fun. Plus, he got to eat Five Guys on the way home, and you have to love that.

I think that's enough of my sob story. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Jadwiga Nycz for the pic.

(Almost) Championship Weekend

Two weeks back we had a killer weekend of hockey and N's team came away with some pretty big wins. Enough to place the team into the championship final for the state in two weeks. How cool is that? What makes this even cooler, if such things were possible, is that they are seeded in the AA division, which is the highest designation for the state in youth hockey. The significance of this cannot be overstated because I think I was told this is the first time our organization is in the finals as a AA team, and truth be told, nobody on this team would have believed we'd be in this position at the beginning of the season. More on this later. Suffice it to say that whatever happens this coming weekend, the kids are champions and should be proud of what they've accomplished.

We entered into the playoff weekends probably as underdogs for a number of reasons. First off, as I mentioned, it is unusual for us to be competing at this level. Second, our organization is small, with about 80 kids total. We were competing against organizations in much bigger cities that have 250-300 kids. That's a huge difference. And finally, we had played the four other teams in the playoffs and only beaten one. The other two had beaten us, and the other we had tied. Historically speaking, it wasn't looking good for us. However, it is worth noting that when we lost to these teams, our team was in a bit of disarray with injuries and illness, my son included.

Okay, there is one more reason that the odds were against us, and that's the makeup of the team. We have 16 skaters, which is a lot, and there are several of these kids who would probably benefit from playing on a house team. One or two is playing hockey for the first time. Now keep in mind, we are playing teams from big programs that have tryouts and then create 2-3 teams. Their AA teams are made up of AA players, and A or B players play on their respective teams. When you play them they are throwing 2-3 lines of AA players at you. We, on the other hand, do not have tryouts and all players, from AA to B, play on the team. Throw in the fact that the coach wants to make sure that everyone gets some ice time, and you have a pretty interesting dynamic out there. There are times you have a AA line going against our 4th line, and believe me, all hell breaks loose. Personally, I think our defense plays a role in keeping it all together, but more on that later..

Anyway, this weekend we were not the favorites, but we like being the underdogs. We beat a strong Burlington team in our first game, believe me when I tell you they were pissed off. They clobbered us in our first meeting, and I would say that we controlled the game. Afterward we went back to the hotel for a nice lunch and some relaxation before our next game. For the second game we played St. Albans, who had lost both of their games by large margins. We clearly took the for granted because they took it to us and beat us handily. The score was only 2-1, but we were never in control. It was, however, a good wakeup call.

We were in a must win situation for the next two games. We didn't want to end up the 4th seed and play the #1 seed in the semis. The goal was to end up the 2nd or 3rd seed and get a rematch with Burlington, who probably had the same thing in mind. Nobody wanted to face the #1 seed this weekend. That night the kids had a real blast swimming and relaxing, and we made sure to eat a nice meal and get plenty of rest. The next morning we went to the arena and beat Barre fairly soundly, 3-0. Back to the hotel for lunch/rest, and then to the arena for the big rematch with Burlington. I have to confess, I was a little nervous.

The kids, however, played great. They had their destiny in their hands, there wasn't any hoping this team lost or this team won, it all cut and dry - win two games and they were in. And that's exactly what they did. They had to beat Barre to get the 2nd or 3rd seed. Lost to Barre and risk becoming the 4th seed and playing Essex, who is pretty formidable. With the Barre win, it was Burlington standing in the way of a game with Essex in the final, and the kids did a great job. I don't know if I'd go as far as to say they controlled the game, but it was close to that. Once they went up 2-0, they protected the lead and won 4-1. It was a pretty exciting game and the kids, parents, and coaches were stoked.

Now we have two weeks off until the final. Whatever happens from here on in is not as important as the fact that the kids made it this far and have played amazing hockey. It's been a lot of fun and it's been nice being a part of it, even though I'm still pretty clueless out there on the ice. I compensate by yelling louder.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Michael Beck for the pic.